A challenge of crafting a plan for the country’s biggest metropolitan region is that a project of such a large scope might exclude input from individual communities. To ensure that a wide range of opinions and experiences would help shape the Fourth Regional Plan, RPA this year established partnerships with member-based non-profit organizations from around the region. We believed it was especially important to involve individuals and communities who typically have been excluded from planning processes. With the support and guidance of the Ford Foundation, RPA began working with six groups from the tri-state area. They include:
- Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, which focuses on engaging a diverse set of community-based groups in Northern New Jersey;
- Community Voices Heard, which works with low-income populations in the Hudson Valley;
- Partnership for Strong Communities, an organization dedicated to aiding low-income, vulnerable communities throughout southwestern Connecticut;
- New York for Communities for Change, which fights for social and economic justice in Long Island and elsewhere in New York;
- Make the Road New York, which advocates for immigrant Latino populations in Long Island;,
- ALIGN New York, which works with New York City’s outer-borough communities vulnerable to climate change.
The initial phase of the collaboration on the Fourth Plan has involved gathering input from local community members, through strategies including focus groups; surveys; and dozens of community meetings
The initial findings following the monthslong community outreach highlighted the extraordinary barriers many low-income communities face to economic opportunity. Sometimes the discoveries were surprising – for example, the desire of many community members to have access to safe cycling to make last-mile transit connections to access employment and social services. Other data reconfirmed the urgency of the problems we’re facing, including the high cost of living in our region and problems involving access to jobs and services.
Beginning this fall, RPA will move into the second phase of the Fourth Plan’s community engagement program that will focus on engaging these organizations and their members in crafting draft Fourth Plan recommendations.